7 Mile House -- A Heady History
The spot where you’re finding jazz this spring, during Jazz Appreciation Month, goes back more than one-and-a-half-centuries earlier in time. The 7 Mile House is so called because it was set here as a stop seven miles from San Francisco’s Ferry Building, for stagecoaches headed south, long before there were freeways and suburbs. “Mile houses” between San Francisco and San Jose, of which the 7 Mile is the last standing in its original location, were spots to rest or exchange your horses and, just as now, provide yourself with liquid refreshment.
They also officially served the US Post Office and the Pony Express, and unofficially as hotels and brothels. These activities were famously disrupted in August of 1876, when members of the so-called Hayes Valley Gang — originating near the current location of SF JAZZ — made a pit-stop after a criminal spree in the Mission District. During the dry years of Prohibition, the citizens of the pastoral community of Brisbane, blossoming on the nearby hillsides, gained a reputation for moonshining and bootlegging beyond the limits of San Francisco, and their 7 Mile House was one of the few establishments licensed to sell whiskey. Long after the
legalization of intoxicating liquors and the paralleling of Bayshore Boulevard by a federally-funded freeway, the 7 Mile House remained a destination for truckers and bikers eager to wash their famous 7 Mile Burgers down with copious amounts of malt beverage, and to raise a little ruckus before heading back out on the road. By the end of the Millennium, the 7 Mile House had also attracted illegal sports gambling, with resulting raids by the FBI. When current owner Vanessa Garcia and her family took control of the club in 2004, opening a kitchen with a delicious mixed American-Italian menu including Filipino specialties, one of their priorities, aside from cleaning things up literally and figuratively, was restoring the live music which had greeted customers in the 1940s and ‘50s. On a schedule which now features blues, funk, and R&B music, former entertainment manager Dennis Cummings and Brisbane-based trumpet veteran Al Molina helped expand the jazz offerings to three nights a week. With fine food, drinks, sports media, and friendly, family-style service for customers of all ages, the 7 Mile House has reclaimed its place in Bay Area history as a uniquely irresistible destination.